Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Am I Better Off? Hell Yes.

The room was darkened and I was nervous, waiting for the biopsy that everyone had assured me was "routine, they do these all the time now, don't worry!" To pass the time and grind down the worry, I was chatting up the young nurse who was prepping me for the procedure.

"This must be a tough job working in the breast care clinic," I said. "How is it?"
 "Mostly good," she said. "Of course, you get your cases. Like last week we had a mother of three come in with breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. She didn't have insurance and was scared to come in. And the sad thing is that she was only 24."

A chill shot through my body. 24. Three kids. Lymph nodes. Cancer.  This is a story I would hear time and time again during my treatment. Along with "scared to come in" followed by "no insurance".

I'm reminded of another conversation that I had with my mom, sitting on our respective beds in the hotel in Houston while visiting M.D. Anderson for more cancer treatment. My mom and I had a rough road of it politically, pretty much being on opposite sides of the fence on every political issue. I figured this was the time that I could find something we might agree on, universal health coverage.

So I asked her, "Mom, what would this be like if you didn't have Medicare or supplemental health coverage? How would you be dealing with this treatment and all of these costs?"

She replied, in true Suz fashion, "Well, I'd just die quicker."

[Before you think the wrong thing, you have to understand that my mother was completely comfortable with the idea of dying. She'd lived life to the fullest, had the love of her family, had a strong belief in her faith.]

Pulling out the big guns, I said "Well, what if it was me? What if it was me and I was leaving David and Ava?"

"That would be different," she said.

Today I get to go to the polls and to a (routine, don't worry) mammogram*. Because I have an employer that chooses to provide me with health insurance, I have not lost my home due to this health crisis that has rocked my world.  Because I have resources and wealth accumulated from my family, I was able to handle the costs associated with my care.

The startling fact is that 40% of bankruptcies are caused by medical expenses and being under-insured.

The startling fact is that we are the only industrialized nation to tie health care to employment.

The startling fact is that if I lose my job my COBRA premiums will go skyward to unreachable heights.

The startling fact is that only in recent years and because of this presidential administration I will not be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition.

I am always amazed that people vote against universal health coverage and then whip out their Medicare card like it's no big deal, that making it over that golden line of seniority somehow makes them different than that 24 year old mom whose two children deserved more too.

I guess I am rattling around in this space today. And I feel like I am not going to convince anyone who hasn't already made up their mind that the current Obama administration has been good for us.

Am I better off than I was four years ago?


I am healthy and alive. I have my home through all of the medical expenses. My kids have a mother. I got to see the physicians I needed to see to restore my health. I have a job, and an employer who sees fit to give me healthcare. It seems a ridiculous thing that my health, my ability to seek treatment, my ability to save my own life would be tied to my employer's willingness to afford me such a benefit.

So today I go to the polls to vote for Obamacare and what it will provide for women's health. And I go get a mammogram to hope to hell that the cancer hasn't come back.

And I am thankful for both.

*I guess when you get a tissue-based reconstruction, you have to get an annual mammogram in order to make sure there hasn't been a recurrence. Crazy, right?


  1. Good luck with the mammogram today. Thanks for another great post.

  2. Good luck with mammogram, Fran. Awesome post. Love it (hugs)!